Ukrainian Pastor Prays for Peace in Homeland

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AKRON -- Watching Russian troops move onto Ukraine soil, Rev. Vsevolod Shevchuk of Akron prays for a peaceful resolution between his homeland and its neighbor.

"People in Ukraine are afraid basically that Russia is going to invade and take over our country and we will be occupied and that concerns me very much, because I care about my people. I don't want any bloodshed, you know," said Shevchuk.

Although he is the Pastor of Holy Ghost Ukranian Catholic Church in Akron, in the United States on a religious visa, Shevchuk remains a Ukrainian citizen.

His parents and all of his relatives remain in the Ukraine, his relatives in both the western and more Russian-speaking eastern part of his home country.

Shevchuk says within the Ukraine, there have been demonstrations against what many believe to be corruption within the government, but the people of his homeland are peaceful.

"Some people try to portray it as there is a danger of civil war. This is not true. People in Ukraine have been protesting for three months, this is true but not because they don't like each other, they don't like the government," said Shevchuk. "In Ukraine, we are as one country and no matter where you live, east or west, no matter what religion you are, we all feel strong love for our land and our country."

He talks by Skype with his family there and says they are worried.

"All I can say is they are really worried about their security, about their life probably, and it seems like we are just begging the world to protect us in that difficult situation," he said.

Known by his parishoners as Fr. Sal, Shevchuk came to the United States at the age of 18 to become a priest. He is a graduate of the Catholic University of America and has pastored Holy Ghost Church for the past year.

He and his congregation have been praying for the people of the Ukraine at each of their services.

Among his prayers is that the United States, Great Britain and all other countries friendly to the Ukraine will apply diplomatic pressure to prevent violence.

"I would like using weapons to be the last resort. I don't even want to talk about it at all, and we are asking civilized people and governments to use whatever they have in their power to pacify aggressors in Russia," said Shevchuk.

He also knows that his country cannot, by itself, stand up to the Russian military, and watching from Akron, he knows the most he can do by himself right now is to pray.

"I have been closely following the news, sometimes I couldn't even sleep. I just pray for Ukraine and I wish there was something I could do about it, but I feel powerless."

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